5 Top Ocean Cleanup Projects To Get Involved In

At least 8 million tons of plastic leaks into our oceans every year. It washes up on our beaches and shorelines, and accumulates in five garbage patches - gigantic islands of plastic and all sorts of other trash - around the world. The plastic in our oceans is already impacting our ecosystems, which in turn filters back to us through the food chain, gets ingested by us and influences our health and well-being.

People are beginning to wake up to the problems the pollution of our oceans poses, not just for the oceanic ecosystems or wildlife, but for us. Our communities, our economies, our health. More and more projects aimed at cleaning up the oceans and keeping them that way are cropping up.

We mention some of these projects in our free ebooklet 16 Mindful Digital Nomad Travel Hacks You Can Start Using Right Now, but want to dive deeper into them in this article. While their focus or main goal may vary, all of them are working for a worthy cause and are always looking for volunteers or donations. So if you’re searching for an ocean cleanup project to get involved in, you just might find the perfect one here.

Image by  Johannes Plenio

Ocean Cleanup Project

The World’s 5 Great Garbage Patches - Image courtesy of The Ocean Cleanup

The World’s 5 Great Garbage Patches - Image courtesy of The Ocean Cleanup

Founded by 18 year old Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup is probably one of the better known ocean cleanup projects. And for good reason, as it attempts something no other organization has tackled so far.

According to The Ocean Cleanup, over 5 trillion pieces of plastic currently litter the ocean. Sooner or later, most of it accumulates in five ocean garbage patches. The biggest is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located in the Pacific between Hawaii and California. It currently measures 1.6 million square kilometers – 3 times the size of France.

The Ocean Cleanup has made it their mission to clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch every five years. To this end, the organization develops passive drifting systems that utilize the ocean wind, waves and currents to filter plastic out of the water. The first of these systems was launched this September and is on its way to the Pacific Garbage Patch.

The trash filtered out of the ocean by this system doesn’t just get shipped back to shore and dumped there. The Ocean Cleanup is working with Recycle Rebuild to recycle the Pacific Garbage Patch garbage, hoping to turn it into new high-quality products. By selling these products for reuse, the two organizations aim to eventually make the cleanup-systems self-sustainable in the long run.

You can support The Ocean Cleanup by making a donation.

Image courtesy of 4Ocean

Image courtesy of 4Ocean

4Ocean

4Ocean has created “the first economy for ocean plastic”. They hire full-time crews to clean oceans and coastlines from Florida to Bali and host cleanups around the world.

This endeavor is financed by the trash itself, which is recycled and turned into bracelets, reusable bottles and multi-purpose bags that are sold online. For every item you purchase, 4Ocean pulls a pound of trash out of the water. According to their website, 4Ocean has pulled 1,554,199 pounds of trash from the ocean at the moment I’m writing this, financed through the recycled and sold items.

By buying a bracelet (or bottle or bag) for 20 USD, you support 4Ocean in their quest and make the oceans a pound of trash lighter.

Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Conservancy’s goal is to create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. The organization works with millions of volunteers from all around the world on their International Coastal Cleanup and runs a myriad of programs like

Photo by Belle Co

Photo by Belle Co

  • Protecting the Arctic

  • Confronting Ocean Acidification

  • Government Relations

  • Ocean Climate

  • Restoring the Gulf of Mexico (after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in 2010)

  • Smart Ocean Planning

  • Sustainable Fisheries

  • Trash Free Seas

Worthy causes, one and all.

You can support Ocean Conservancy in a few different ways.

One is by giving a donation. You can either choose to donate on a one-time basis, or subscribe to a monthly donation of your choosing.

You can also become a citizen cosponsor of the NEAR (National Estuaries and Acidification Research) Act. This act helps scientists, resource managers and communities understand and prepare for ocean acidification in special nearshore places. As a “citizen co-sponsor” of this Act, you’re telling your legislators to become official co-sponsors themselves.

Or lend your voice to the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which is currently in danger of being abolished.

PADI Underwater Cleanups

For over 25 years, PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) has partnered with Project AWARE® to empower divers across the globe to help improve the health of the ocean. Their flagship citizen-science program, Dive Against Debris®, encourages scuba divers to not only collect marine debris but also to record data on the type, quantity, and location of materials collected.

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The data collected and submitted to Project AWARE following a Dive Against Debris is a crucial step in the process. The dive centers and Dive Against Debris survey their local dive sites on a long-term basis, forming a comprehensive database and identifying marine debris hotspots. This information can help drive change with local restaurants and businesses as well as informing inform governments to prioritize particular waste management strategies.

So for you divers among us, why not join the Dive Against Debris citizen science movement on your next dive and take part in a regularly scheduled underwater cleanup. Cleaning the ocean with fellow divers makes for a fun and rewarding dive.

And when I finally get my diving license next year, I’m definitely taking part in the first of these Dive Against Debris® projects I come across.

Plastic Ocean Project (POP)

Plastic Ocean Project strives to work with and for the next generation to create a more sustainable future. Their mission is to educate through field research, implement progressive outreach initiatives and incubate solutions to address the global plastic pollution problem.

Their current initiatives include

  • Fishing 4 Plastic

  • Outreach through Art

  • Plastic-to-Fuel

  • Ocean-friendly Establishments

  • Green Beans

  • Boomerang Bags

  • Hope Spot Hatteras

  • Beautiful Nation Project

You can support POP in a few different ways, too.

The first is to become a POP Ambassador. These intrepid men and women - and children! - support communities and create a global network of volunteers who take action against the plastic pollution on a local level.

You can even take it a step further and start your own POP Chapter. These chapters are led and run by dedicated local volunteers who work to implement POP initiatives in their communities.

And if you want to organize your own cleanup of your favorite beach, POP knows exactly how to go about it.

Of course you can also become a POP Member starting at 25 USD/year or make a donation.

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Digital nomads travel a lot - it’s part of our lifestyle description. But travel raises our carbon footprint and produces a lot of waste all around. If we want to ensure our world remains worth exploring, we have to start caring more about these issues.

Let’s begin by being more mindful about our travel habits. Mindful Nomad Hacks has collected 16 simple tips, tricks and travel hacks you can start integrating into your digital nomad lifestyle right away. Just sign up for our newsletter and receive 16 Mindful Digital Nomad Travel Hacks for free.

Every little makes a difference.

Let’s tread lightly upon this Earth.